A surprising connection between gut health and depression is making researchers look at probiotics for mood stabilization in addition to overall gut health.
When you think of your mood and how the brain works, the last thing that may come to mind is the gastrointestinal tract.
However, if you pay attention, you might notice that often when you’re feeling upset or an intense emotion, you can feel it in your stomach: nerves, excitement, anxiety. You may even crave some comfort foods because of it.
Turns out, the body produces a significant amount of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the gut. And the live microbiota there - aka probiotics- are doing the brunt of the work to make it.
So even though it may be the last thing to come to mind, a happy gut may lead to a happier person.
Probiotics may help bring gut health and depression or anxiety into balance, by populating the gut microbiome with helpful bacteria that boost the production of “feel-good” chemicals. They could also lower the ones that contribute to mood swings, stress, anxiety, or sadness.
You can see why scientists are so excited about this: probiotics could help us live healthier and happier lives!
Your Gut: The Body’s Second Brain
Your gut can have a mind of its own. It may sound a bit woo-woo to some, but that gut feeling you get when you meet a new person? Or the intuitive answer that comes from "listening to your gut"? Those “butterflies” in your stomach when you see your crush. They are real, and they’re spectacularly connected.
Perhaps you’ve experienced them as a feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're waiting for Big News or the loss of appetite at bad ones. Turns out, it’s not your heart that knows what’s up - it’s your gut.
We're learning that this "gut feeling" might not be as metaphorical as we used to believe. There is a two-way street between your brain and the gastrointestinal tract that may be telling you more about your overall well-being than it gets credit for. In fact, there are roughly 100 billion neurons in the human brain, while there are 500 million in the gut. Wow. That surprised me.
The gut is considered the body’s second brain because it makes important neurotransmitters and mood-enhancers.
But that's not all.
The gut and brain act as a partnership. Linked through biochemical signals that go through the enteric nervous system and the longest nerve in the body - the vagus nerve. Clearly, there's more to the gut than bowel movements and food babies.
In fact, it’s in charge of producing the top chemicals responsible for the feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, good humor, and calm:
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
As you may see, the relationship between gut bacteria and depression - or on the other side, an elevated mood - may be deeper than previously thought.
It is estimated that 90% of the serotonin we use -the happiness hormone- is produced in the digestive tract. This makes the study of the connection between gut bacteria and depression a vital next step in the evolution of how we treat and manage these symptoms of this illness.
The Gut-Brain Axis:
Considered a “superhighway of information,” the gastrointestinal tract and the brain are connected by a complex network of neurons, hormones, and chemicals that exchange data at all times. Therefore, what affects the brain usually influences the gut - and vice versa.
The gut microbiome feeds the brain constant information on:
- Hunger levels
- Stress levels
- Nutrient needs
- Emotional discomfort
- Substance ingestion
- Harmful chemicals, microorganisms, and more
The brain, in turn, sends stress signals to the gut. Which is why emotional distress is often accompanied by an upset stomach. And why many IBS sufferers are told to reduce their stress levels.
An everyday example of this connection is in the nerves some people feel right before giving a public speech. The stomach “churns” because you’re stressed. And the gut microbiome knows it - right away. It’s not just you - we’ve all been there. And it’s our gut-brain connection at work.
You may not turn into an overnight public speaking success, but knowing how gut bacteria and anxiety interact might help prevent some of those same physical “gut reactions” in the future.
The same thought process can be applied to those with mental health issues or gastrointestinal problems.
What Happens When Gut Bacteria is Off
The “unfriendly” type of bacteria in the gut microbiome can grow out of control due to a poor diet rich in sodium, sugar, and fat, antibiotic use, infections, gastrointestinal problems, and environmental toxins, among other causes. When this happens, and you don’t have enough probiotics and prebiotic fiber to regulate it and keep it under control, an unwanted production of proinflammatory Lipopolysaccharide Proteins or LPS proteins may occur.
These proteins contribute to chronic inflammation and, in the long run, have negative effects on your body and mental health. High levels of LPS proteins have been linked to degenerative cognitive conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease. These, in turn, affect the body’s “fear center” - the amygdala- which increases the feelings associated with anxiety and depression.
When the gut microbiome is out of balance, you’re not just at risk of an increasingly upset stomach. You could also be at a greater risk of developing cognitive problems and deteriorating diseases that affect the brain.
Gut Bacteria, Depression, Anxiety, and Good Mood
Fortunately, that's where probiotics come in. They are the "good" or "friendly" gut bacteria: a life-supporting type of live microorganisms that already live in the gastrointestinal tract.
Probiotics already perform a number of healthy functions, like supporting nutrient absorption, waste removal, and production of the “feel-good” chemicals mentioned before.
In short, probiotics help maintain the gut-brain axis. But, if you’re body’s running low, they may not be able to do their job.
Research suggests that probiotics:
- May improve gut health and depression symptoms
- Could boost cognitive function and sleep
- May help people have a better mood and reduce anxiety
- May lower stress and its associated inflammation
- Could help reduce signs of depression in patients with IBS
Furthermore, a recent study following two large groups of people in Europe found that there are several species and strains of gut bacteria “missing” in the gut microbiome of patients diagnosed with depression. The provocative findings put both the connection between gut health and depression, and gut bacteria and depression, on the map. Researchers can’t say yet whether there’s a direct causational link, but there’s a correlation to be studied.
Convinced to stock up on some probiotics yet? I know I am.
The good news is that, even though the connection between your gut and your good mood is an emerging topic for research, there is some pretty concrete evidence that probiotics can help restore balance in your gut.
And they are safe to take long-term as a natural daily supplement.
The Best Probiotics for a Good Mood
These strains may be the best to manage gut health and depression, promoting a good mood for most who take them. They may be particularly great to reach for when the seasons are changing, work or school schedules are getting crazy, and/or you’re feeling just a little under the weather.
- Bifidobacterium Longum might reduce bad gut bacteria and depression and the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) factor
- Bifidobacterium Lactic may boost immunity
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum could stimulate the production of vitamin K, and B-12 which may also contribute to a better mood
- Bifidobacterium Infantis could help with relaxation, gut health and depression
- Lactobacillus Brevis may improve levels of the BDNF factor which protects the brain
- Lactobacillus Plantarum may reduce unfriendly gut bacteria and anxiety, lower inflammation, and stimulate the gut-brain axis
- Lactobacillus Helveticus could help balance gut bacteria, and anxiety levels as well as symptoms of depression
- Lactobacillus Gasseri (Strain number CP2305) could improve sleep quality
Animal studies are more abundant than human clinical trials, but the evidence so far in smaller human studies support the theory that probiotics could help elevate your mood and even reduce anxiety.
For most people that want to feel their best on a daily basis, probiotics may help put a smile on your face.
For those who do have clinical depression or struggle with other mental health issues, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t ever stop any doctor-recommended medications or treatments. Probiotics provide a supplementary source of relief and support, but should not replace mood-stabilizing medication or antidepressants.
How to Safely Incorporate Probiotics to Boost Your Mood
When it comes to gut health and good mood, probiotics might be a natural way to try to boost dopamine, serotonin, and GABA neurotransmitters.
But, it's important to note that, while probiotics are considered safe to consume, everybody has a unique gut microbiome and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the next. That simply means you may need to try a few different strains, or even wait a little bit longer for the probiotic you are taking to do its job.
As the body adjusts to new probiotics that may not have been present before - or whose numbers were lower- you may experience temporary belly bloat, gas, and a more active bowel. These should pass within a few weeks -most people start seeing positive results after four weeks.
Test a probiotic supplement as well, noticing the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) and the expiration date on the box. Probiotic bacteria must reach the GI tract alive to restore the gut and have positive long-term results, so something that’s outdated or stored incorrectly may not be doing your gut any good.
For optimum results, try having your probiotics supplement in the morning, 30 minutes before breakfast, and with a full glass of water to help the bacteria get to the intestines without being harmed by the stomach’s acid. A meal with fiber may help their transit and make it easier to repopulate the gut flora. Add Organifi Balance to your morning routine and nourish your gut with 5 powerful strains of bacteria and 20 billion CFU's guaranteed at consumption!
According to Harvard Health:
- Recommended doses of probiotics for gut health and anxiety or depression symptoms go from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) multiple days per week.
- Freeze-dried culture bacteria may be better than other sources, as this keeps them in a state of hibernation. The microorganisms in probiotic supplements come to life inside the gut tract with the body’s own heat.
- It may take a minimum of two weeks to see some results in gut health, especially after antibiotic-induced diarrhea
Probiotics may help you keep mood swings at bay and put a smile on your face, not just because your bowel movements and skin got better, but because they’re helping you produce the most powerful feel-good chemicals.
Balanced gut bacteria may help protect the brain, support cognitive health, improve sleep, and boost mood by producing and maintaining the levels of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. All good reasons to try probiotics in my book!
And while they’re not a replacement for antidepressants, mood-stabilizing hormones, or other medical treatments out there, gut health and depression are more connected than previously thought. Therefore, probiotics could provide complementary or preventative support for people with anxiety or depression. If you’re taking medications, always check with your doctor before trying a probiotics supplement to make sure it won’t interfere with the treatment.
Let us know if you’re trying Organifi Balance for gut health and your mood, and how it helped you. We’d love to share your success stories with the community - we’re in this together!